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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The next phase

I find myself a little sad and depressed because we are in the next ramp-up phase of Brad’s visits with the kids.  He is getting eight hours both days on ‘his’ weekends.  This weekend is the first time he’ll have them eight hours both days in a row and I feel like I won’t see them at all this weekend, and it makes me sad. 

I’m also a little worried about him spending so much time with the kids.  I think he’ll get tired of them, or they won’t do exactly what wants, and he’ll lose his patience.  He's very controlling with them when I am around, so he obviously doesn't see anything wrong with it.  When you try to maintain such a high level of control, it invariably leads to anger because no one can live up to your expectations.   That’s when the yelling and threats will start, but I’ll never know how bad it is.   I really hope the kids will tell me if anything really bad happens, but I can’t count on it.   I’ve often wondered whether Brad is so angry because he’s controlling, or if he’s so controlling because he’s angry.  Or maybe it’s just chicken/egg thing and it’s all wound up together, and he’s fundamentally both.     Regardless, it's no fun to deal with, which I why I had to get out. 
I chose to be a single mother, and it's not as hard as I expected, once I got a routine going.  What is harder than I expected is feeling like I don’t have the money to do what I want;  and being divorced from Brad much more irritating than I thought.   I assumed based on his bad behavior that I would be able to keep his visitation much more restricted.  I did not think I’d have to give him almost standard visitation. I didn't think he’d want to come to every extracurricular activity.  

One the one hand, it has been very helpful to have him shuttle kids to soccer and gymnastics when I can’t be in two places at the same time.  On the other hand, each interaction with him has the potential for him saying something insulting, invasive or idiotic.   Like yesterday when he asked “Are you going to sleep with him?” when he found out I had a second date with a guy I’d met.   He obviously had no idea how inappropriate that question was.   I was stunned and really did not know how to respond.   I have since told him I thought that was inappropriate, and he said he said it because he wants me to be careful and not get hurt.  Huh?

To a certain extent, it’s nice to have time to myself.  I can go grocery shopping, exercise, take a nap.  It’s like it was before I was married, but there is always an undercurrent of worry and guilt.   I feel guilty that I cannot spend all of my time with the kids.  I absolutely know I made the right decision in leaving Brad, and we are all much better off, but I still feel just a little bit like I ‘took’ them from their father and created this situation.   Intellectually I know I didn't, he created this with his atrocious behavior, but I somehow feel responsible for the situation we're in. 
It’s really hard to give up on an intact family.  That’s one of the reasons I stayed as long as I did, and I still struggle from time to time with the ‘what if?’  Being divorced with kids is awful, and I hate that they have two houses and two beds,  and we are constantly sending soccer cleats, backpacks, and whatnot back and forth.   Trying to remember everything and keep up with the schedule is very challenging.    I truly wish it did not have to be this way, but I know in my heart of hearts that it does, which is why I get sad periodically.    I'm sure I'll be fine tomorrow.  I'll talk with my sister or my mom and they'll make me laugh, the kids will be ok, and life will go on.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

When do I get my hugs?

What Brad said to me yesterday after Cassie’s soccer game.  He’s been on this hugging kick lately and I can’t figure out why, and it’s really annoying.   He tried to hug me as we left and I told him again that I don’t want to hug him.    I told him I don’t think most divorced couples hug, and he disagreed with me.   Then I said “Well maybe they would hug after they haven’t seen each other for a while, but I see you almost every day.”   But, he says, he wants to be friends with me and he hugs his friends, so he wants to hug me.  

I told him there was a lot of unwanted touching in our relationship and I do not want any touching now.   That’s when he said “Well when do I get my hugs?”   I told him I wasn’t sure he was ever going to get them willingly, to which he replied “then I’ll just do it anyway.”  Really?  Forcing an unwanted hug makes you feel better, or in control, or what?   I have no idea.
 After going back and forth a bit, I told him the best way to improve our relationship right now is for him not to hug me.    He finally sort of seemed to accept this.   Then today he called to finalize some details for tomorrow and said that he had been thinking about what I said yesterday and the unwanted touching.  He said “you mean like when I would demand to touch your boobs?”   I didn’t know what to say, I was to taken aback, so I said “Yes, like that.”  
He seems to have forgotten all of the cornering, the shoving and grabbing, the coerced sex, the strangling.  He is a very large physical presence and his physical intimidation and sexual coercion was a very large part of our relationship.  I've decided, though, that it’s not worth arguing about.  He’s told me before and again just this last Friday that he only ever touched me to shut me up in front of the kids.  He admits he should not have touched me, but he says he did it to keep me from screaming and scaring the kids.   Yeah –that’s better – strangle their mother in front of them to keep them from seeing her scream and cry because of your abusive behavior.    The problem with his theory is that it is categorically not true, the worst incident happened when the kids were in the car.  A lot the incidents happened in our bedroom or after the kids were in bed.   Many of them did happen in front of the kids, and yes, sometimes I screamed at him to stop as he was yelling at me and chasing me down and making me crazy with his verbal abuse.  I guess it did not occur to him that walking away or backing down would have stopped my screaming immediately.  He has clearly invented a reality to deal with his abusive behavior.
Back to the hugging.   As of that moment on the phone, he seemed to sort of accept that I don’t want hugs and has his own version of why I don’t want them.  He is incapable of understanding the revulsion and the post-traumatic stress induced in me by each of his hugs.   Then he says to me that he’ll deal with it for now  (or something like that), but that he really needs the hugs because I am such an unemotional person, the only way he can think of to get positive emotions out of me is the hug.
What? Why does he need positive emotions from me?   I am barely enduring having to see him and he wants to be best friends, and needs postive feedback.  He says he wants to talk and be friends “like we used to be.”   The problem with that theory is that he repeatedly told me during our marriage that we “never talked” and that he did not like me, and he would never have been friends with me if we weren’t married.  He basically only dealt with me because he had to – or that was his story anyway.
It boggles my mind to think that he has fantasized some relationship between us that never existed, and he wants to get back to that mythical state.    I feel like saying “You’re lucky I talk to you at all under the circumstances,” but of course I can’t.  I hope he doesn't hug me anymore for a while, and I'll bite my lip when he discusses what our relationship was actually like.  Up is down and down is up in his world, but I know I’m right.  So I keep reminding myself which way is up to try to avoid tripping and falling down into his crazy world.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spinning Plates

It’s difficult enough to date as a divorced working mother with two busy kids, but I also have to deal with so many other issues because of my abusive ex-husband, and it really frustrates me sometimes.

I constantly worry about how Brad is going to react as I date.  He claims he wants me to date and be happy, and has even said that he thinks I will deal with him better once I am dating.  I assume this is because he thinks I’m unhappy and lonely and that once I have a boyfriend, I will be happier and therefore less ‘mean’ to him.   The fact that he has told me this is demeaning in and of itself.  And, of course, I am not mean to him.  He thinks I am because he is an abusive personality. 
It’s just like when we were married, with a double standard of epic proportions.  He does not see anything wrong with saying “you’re the meanest person in the world” to me,  but I am not allowed to answer his invasive questions with short answers.  I have to be overly friendly and if I am not, then I am mean.  It’s just ridiculous.    So even when I get a boyfriend, I don’t think he’ll notice any difference in my behavior and at that point I’ll be really worried about how jealous he is.  In spite of his protestations to the contrary, I know he is jealous.  It’s only natural and I wish he would just admit it and deal with it instead of denying it.   He’s afraid someone is going to replace him as the kids' father,  and I get that, but he needs to understand that his role in their lives and his behavior is completely up to him, not me.

The next big concern I have is around trusting and making good decisions.  Even after my experience with Brad, I am a generally trusting person.  If you say something, I believe it.   My concern is walking the fine line between trusting someone and being on alert for abusive behavior.   I certainly don’t want to make the same mistake again.  Right now I feel like I would never be in another abusive relationship because I know all the warning signs and I would get out before it got bad, but would I?  I see lots of stories of women who have been in multiple abusive relationships and the thought just horrifies me.   So will I be overly cautious and bolt at the first sign of conflict, unjustly removing good men from my life?  I just don’t know.
The last concern I have it how my past will affect the men I date.   Will they be hesitant to get involved with someone who has an abusive past?  Will they assume it was my fault and that there must be something wrong with me if I could let this happen?  Will they be afraid Brad might come after them in a jealous rage?  Possibly all of these will happen.

These issues are not trivial and I will never be able to ‘solve’ any of them.  I wish my life had turned out differently. I wish Brad had not been abusive, but it is what it is and I just have muddle through the best I can. It’s like a spinning plates act balancing my job, my children, my ex-husband and my personal life;   I pay attention to something for a while until something else wobbles and then I move over to that until the next thing wobbles, and on and on it goes.   If this all works out, maybe I can join the circus.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

“You’re the meanest person in the world.”

What Brad told me last Saturday when I did not respond in an appropriately appreciative fashion to a suggestion he made.  I was having some scheduling stress about soccer games and he offered to help, the problem was that it wasn’t a good suggestion and wouldn’t really have helped.  Perhaps I was a bit dismissive, when I rejected his offer.  I tried to explain why his suggestion would not work, but he wasn’t having any of it and he hung up on me.

Then he texted later and said I was irresponsible and unaccountable, and blamed everyone else for my problems, and asked “how are the kids going to have a good role model and learn how to take responsibility for their actions when you do not.”   Wow.  Look in the mirror, Brad, you just described yourself.   As in previous posts, a classic case of projection.  Everything that is wrong with him, he says is wrong with me.  We sort of made up later, and he put his arm around me and was very condescending about the whole thing.  I shudder at his touch which made it that much worse.
 I continue to find it very frustrating that I have to deal with him at all.   He has no sense of boundaries and is not rational.   He truly believes these crazy things he says, but I have to talk to him and respond as well as I can, because of the kids.   At some level, I wish he would lose interest in the kids and not be as involved, but I know that would probably not be best for them.  I really struggle with the question of ‘Is having a crazy, angry, irresponsible dad better than a disinterested or absent dad?”    I really don’t know and maybe I never will, but it plagues me constantly.  

When he’s with the kids, I see him being loud and controlling and capricious, and I think “I can’t let him see them anymore, I have to get them away from him.”  Then I see him being loving and trying to be nice and I think “I am glad they have this interaction with him.”   I’m totally torn about the whole thing, and I suppose I always will be.
At the end of the day, I hope the good with him will outweigh the bad, but I don’t believe it.  I feel deep down that something bad, at least emotionally if not physically, will eventually happen and I will be left to pick up the pieces.  I can only hope that by my behavior and my example, my kids will come to me with anything truly disturbing or abusive that Brad does to them, or in their presence.  Until then, I do the best I can to keep the peace and not take his abusive behavior personally, because I cannot change him, however much I wish I could.